Dec 8, 2009

Head in the Game

Having shown my Kaiwhekea to Dr. Fordyce I was interested to hear that there was no definitive stance on exactly how this animal's skull was supposed to go together in life.

That's not to say we don't know what its skull looked like. Kaiwhekea is known from a fairly complete skeleton (in fact the MOST complete of any known marine vertebrate from New Zealand), but it is badly crushed. So the skull is distorted, and as of such it leaves a few questions as to how it would have been pre-burial.

This was my initial version. You'll notice the nearly 200 needle teeth. They were a "lot" of fun to put in... especially as you'll see, I ended up having to place them all a few times *groan*
As he was unconvinced one way or the other as to what the animal might have looked like, Dr. Fordyce did not venture much of an opinion on the skull (though the neck needs a bit of work).

This is the Kaiwhekea skull (courtesy of the University of Otago's page on the animal). Despite its crushed nature, people with some knowledge of typical Plesiosaur skulls will see how this animal differs greatly from other Cretaceous Plesiosaurs. However the details are lost, and as of such I was trying to recreate this skull with as few "details" as I could.
This ran in the face of the one common restoration of Kaiwhekea out there on Wikipedia, by Dmitry Bogdanov. You'll notice there is a lot more definition and "detailing" in the forehead and chin then is present in the skull. Additionally the mouth has a discernible U slope under the eye, again not present in the skull.
I was wondering where Mr. Bogdanov was getting the ideas for this. It looked kind of cool, but at the same time I got the impression he was working off a skull reference of some sort. It certainly wasn't the fossil skull, as I'd been using that, and it wasn't anywhere near as "interesting" in its details.
Till I came across the skull restoration available on Plesiosaur Directory. There was no question this was Dmitry Bogdanov's basis for his restoration. I decided to follow suit, though not exactly as he had done.
It was tricky getting a match. Especially on the thin "lips" at the end of the snout... So Dmitry Bogdanov's restoration once more for comparison. I use his, as again it is the only other (accurate) restoration out there. Geoffory Cox and Chris Gaskin have both done supposed Kaiwhekeas, but their heads were clearly modelled on the more typical Elasmosaurid design.

Mine version is not an exact match it should be noted. Partially as I couldn't be bothered to match the skull 100% (as likely this skull restoration isn't 100% correct itself), and as I wanted mine to be a little different this is where I got it too.

My Kaiwhekea on its own.

With its mouth open it demonstrates just how truly bizarre and unique its family of Gondwannaian Plesisosaurs are, in comparison to the more familiar Elasmosaurids of the northern hemisphere.


Dinorider d'Andoandor said...

Bogdanov's Kaiwhekea looks sort of bizarre!

cool animal, and what a name!

Albertonykus said...

I like it! What more can I say?

Raptor Lewis said...

It can be extremely difficult to restore these animals accurately based off of incomplete and/or damaged material, so your efforts are meritorious beyond doubt. And, as Dinorider said, this plesiosaur looks pretty bizarre, definitely not what we're used to seeing in this group of reptiles. Great work!

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